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Philippines marks 1986 revolt with dictator's son as leader

February 25, 2023

Ferdinand Marcos Jr., son of the late dictator Ferdinand Snr, faced an awkward siutation as protesters took the streets to mark the anniversary of the popular uprising that ended his father's rule.

A banner that says 'Never again to Martial Law!'
The 1986 uprising became an harbinger of change in authoritarian regimesImage: Jam Sta Rosa/AFP/Getty Images

Hundreds of Filipinos took to the streets on Saturday to mark the 37th anniversary of a revolution that overthrew Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos in February 1986.

Marcos plunged the country into martial law between 1972 and 1981 and his administration was accused of rounding up thousands of political opponents.

The turbulent period prompted a "people power" revolution that ultimately overthrew the dictator and sent him and his family into exile in the US.

A girl holds up a 'Never Again to Martial Law' sign in a crowd of protesters
Protesters at the People Power Monument that honors the 1986 revolutionImage: Ezra Acayan/Getty Images

Ferdinand Marcos Jr., the son of the late dictator, won elections by a landslide last year. He was 28 at the time his family was forced out of the country.

Political dynasties dominate the Philippines, and the Marcos family following their return to the country in the 1990s, remained a powerful force in local politics.

Demonstrators throng revolution highway 

Around 1,400 pro-democracy activists took to the main EDSA highway in the capital Manila, where more than a million people had converged in 1986 to protest against Ferdinand Marcos's rule.

Protesters at Epifanio de los Santos Avenue or EDSA, in Quezon City, northeast of Manila
Protesters at Epifanio de los Santos Avenue or EDSA, in Quezon City which lies northeast of ManilaImage: Jam Sta Rosa/AFP/Getty Images

Demonstrators on Saturday carried signs like "Never Forget," while other activists rallied at a separate pro-democracy monument nearby.

Marcos Jr. calls for reconciliation

Faced with the awkward situation of protests, Marcos Jr. issued a statement to Facebook calling for reconciliation. He didn't call the event a democratic milestone, as his predecessors had done.

"I once again offer my hand of reconciliation to those with different political persuasions to come together as one in forging a better society —  one that will pursue progress and peace and a better life for all Filipinos," Marcos Jr said in a two-paragraph statement posted to Facebook.

Marcos Jr. said he was one with the nation "in remembering those times of tribulations and how we came out of them united and stronger as a nation."

The elder Marcos died in 1989, and the family has denied siphoning off billions of dollars of state wealth during the dictatorship.

rm/rc (Reuters, AP)